Monkeypox cases in Africa vs elsewhere: Is there inequality in response?

A recent rise in the monkeypox cases sparked global concerns when the outbreaks were detected in countries where it is not common. Monkeypox is an uncommon disease and its outbreaks mostly occur in west and central Africa. Occasionally it spreads elsewhere. 

The spread of monkeypox cases in the United States, the United Kingdom, and European countries concerned the health experts. Earlier this week, the European Commission told the news agency AFP that the EU is working on centralising purchases of vaccines and treatments for monkeypox. 

Meanwhile, the Africans are seeing inequity in the way monkeypox outbreaks are treated elsewhere in the world. Although no deaths have been reported anywhere, more than 250 monkeypox cases have been reported in countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy, US, etc. 

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The cases caused panic worldwide with people comparing it with the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak that killed millions in the past two years. 

As per a report by Associated Press, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that there have been more than 1,400 monkeypox cases and 63 deaths in four countries where the disease is endemic – Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo and Nigeria. 

However, measures to counter the spread were not there in African countries. The bias is evident as after the recent identification of cases, Britain has vaccinated more than 1,000 people who were at risk of contracting. The authorities also bought 20,000 more doses. 

As mentioned, EU officials are in talks to buy more smallpox vaccines from Bavarian Nordic, the maker of the only such vaccine licensed in Europe, AP reported. US government officials have released about 700 doses of the vaccine. 

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As quoted by the news agency AP, Dr Adesola Yinka-Ogunleye, who leads Nigeria’s monkeypox working group, said there are currently no vaccines or antivirals being used against monkeypox in her country. 

She said that people suspected of having monkeypox are isolated and treated conservatively, while their contacts are monitored. 

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Dr Jimmy Whitworth, a professor of international public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said that limited vaccine supply and competing health priorities have meant that immunisation against monkeypox hasn’t been widely pursued in Africa. 

“It’s a bit uncomfortable that we have a different attitude to the kinds of resources we deploy depending on where cases are. It exposes a moral failing when those interventions aren’t available for the millions of people in Africa who need them,” he said as quoted by AP. 

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